Owning a Sports Utility Vehicle gives one access to a vast array of outdoor activities. Its’ no secret that SUVs can go places ordinary vehicles can’t, but little attention has been given to proper SUV camping equipment and methods. That’s right, we’re talking about sleeping right there in the back of your SUV.
The first consideration, of course, is whether your particular model of vehicle has enough room to actually stretch out and sleep. I’m six feet tall and have no problem sleeping in the back of my Nissan XTerra. The best way to find out if you fit is to crawl in there and lay down! I’ve found that sleeping in the vehicle itself has advantages. The foremost of these is the security of being in a vehicle during a rainstorm or foul weather. Also, while I’m not averse to old fashioned tent camping, I find that the vehicle is much warmer than the cold ground. Another plus is that I don’t roll over in the night to find a tree root stuck in my back. Some great solutions for a good nights sleep in the back of your SUV may actually be in your closet or basement right now. One of the best is a single sized futon pad. These roll-up nicely for transport and provide not only comfort but insulation on colder nights. Some campers like to use inflatable mattresses of various sizes, including the small inflatable models sold for hikers in most outfitter stores. Personally, I use a pad from a chaise lounge on my back deck. It folds well and is rugged enough for tough use. Also, the SUV makes a great base-camp for day-hikes or fishing expeditions. By using the SUV as a tent you don’t need to carry a restrictive mummy bag if you don’t wish. Break out the cotton sheets and sleep in comfort!
Another consideration is ventilation. Sleeping in your SUV with the windows closed can become uncomfortable, especially in warm weather. Not only do the windows become foggy, but the entire interior of the vehicle can become moist with breath exhalation and quite stuffy. Leaving the windows down is a solution that works fine so long as there are no bugs flying around. However, add a few mosquitoes or other buzzing critter and the night can become very uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a couple of ready solutions for this problem. The first, and most expensive, is to purchase a truck tent system for your SUV. There are many models designed to fit over the tail gate of many common models. Some are smaller and simply create a little extra space with the gate open. Others create an entire room off the back of the vehicle with screened windows and room for the family. This choice is a matter of personal taste, budget, and intent. Another solution, which can compliment a truck tent or be used solo is a product called the “Magna Screen”. These allow you to sleep with your windows down and provide a barrier against insects. Basically, a Magna Screen is a screen that fits magnetically over the exterior of your side window. They’re inexpensive, durable and solve the problem nicely.
Getting to the back-country should be no problem. The best thing you can own is a detailed map of your local National Forest or Park. Make sure to own a map that details all accessible fire roads in the area, and check local conditions to be sure that motor vehicles are allowed where you plan to camp. High end dashboard GPS units, such as Garmin, will also have details on access roads. Once you use a GPS unit you may never buy a map again, and with a good GPS system you can mark all your favorite fishing and camping spots to return again and again with laser precision. So there you have it, your SUV can do even more for you if you’re willing to try something new. Sleeping in your SUV may seem odd at first to some, but once you experience the freedom it allows on back-country jaunts you will be sold. Remember, always respect your environment and always practice “leave no trace” tactics when enjoying the outdoors.